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Visa to allow consumers to buy and sell digital currencies at banks

Thirty-five of the leading digital currency platforms and wallets have already chosen to issue Visa

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Photo (c) mkarco - Getty Images
Visa has laid out plans to develop a suite of software applications so that banks can enable cryptocurrency trading and allow consumers to purchase and sell Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies at traditional banks. 

Visa is partnering with South Dakota startup Anchorage Trust Company, which recently became the first cryptocurrency company to receive a federal charter from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Anchorage will act as the “digital custodian” of cryptocurrencies purchased at Visa’s banking partners.

The first bank to take Visa up on its offer and integrate its services into its own is First Boulevard, the self-described “Unapologetically Black, digitally native bank, building generational wealth for Black America.”

Why this is important to Visa

While cryptocurrency is both confusing and alluring to most consumers, its prices keep shooting upward. This has forced bankers and traders to sit up and take notice, and the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) is trying to get a grip on crypto’s growing popularity in order to protect consumers.

During the company’s recent earnings call, Visa chief executive Al Kelly described Bitcoin as "digital gold" and said cryptocurrencies are "not used as a form of payment in a significant way at this point."

To Kelly, it’s purely a numbers game -- one that he feels will prove itself to be a safe bet long term.

"Our strategy here is to work with wallets and exchanges to enable users to purchase these currencies using their Visa credentials or to cash out onto our Visa credential to make a fiat purchase at any of the 70 million merchants where Visa is accepted globally," Kelly said

Kelly’s team has already shored up important cryptocurrency platforms. In the earnings call, he said that 35 of the leading digital currency platforms and wallets have already chosen to issue Visa. Those 35 platforms represent 50 million Visa credentials. 

“The next leading network has a fraction of that,” Kelly claimed. “And it goes without saying, to the extent a specific digital currency becomes a recognized means of exchange, there's no reason why we cannot add it to our network, which already supports over 160 currencies today.”

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